Rabbi Yaacov Haber's
Torah InsightsKOL NIDRE
drasha was given at the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo on Kol Nidre Night, Erev Yom Kippur,
and transcribed from memory by Jeffery Zucker.
The entire series has been published in a book
titled "Reachings" and can be ordered by
Comments and questions are always welcome.
Recently I heard a remarkable story.
During the Second World War, a German soldier was mortally wounded in battle, and as he
fell, a priest rushed up to administer the last rites. With his remaining strength, the
soldier pushed the priest's cross away, and said: "Ich bin ein Jude!" ("I
am a Jew!") The priest replied: "Sorgen sich nicht, ich bin auch ein Jude!"
("Don't worry, I'm also a Jew!")
It is remarkable how every Yom Kippur all over the world, thousands upon thousands of
people who otherwise never come near a synagogue, come to the Kol Nidre service.
It is known that the Kol Nidre prayer gained in significance during the persecution of
Jews in Spain at the time of the Inquisition. People who had been forced to convert, the
Marranos, behaved outwardly like their neighbors, but inwardly they remained Jews. Once a
year they used this prayer to renounce the oaths they had been forced to make forswearing
their own religion in favor of Christianity. Deep down, in their innermost souls,
they remained Jewish. The Kol Nidre was a proclamation that their vows, all their
external behavior,was not really them. This prayer helped them cleanse themselves of their
outer garments and reach their inner souls.
Today in America, although there are no such persecutions, there are still Marranos. We
are not under pressure by the church, but simply by the environment in which we live. Our
inner souls are cloaked with external garments which are just not ours. We walk, act, and
talk in ways incongruous to our Judaism. Then there are the inverted Marranos whose outer
appearance is that of a Tzaddik, but who are lacking inside; missing the spirit and ethics
of being Jewish. All of us together need Kol Nidre; we need to get it together.
Rabbi Dessler in "Michtav Me-Eliyohu" writes that there is one part of our soul
that burns like a tiny flame. That flame has the capacity to survive. No matter how hard
its carrier might try to extinguish the flame, it will continue to burn.
This is what Yom Kippur and repentance are about, removing the outer garments and letting
the light shine out.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and the spiritual leader of
the OU's Pardes Program
"A tree of life for those who embrace
Send comments to Rabbi Haber at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Yaacov Haber Torah